The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE, Soitec, CEA-Leti and the Helmholtz Center Berlin jointly announced today having achieved a new world record for solar cell efficiency: 44.7% That means that 44.7% of all solar energy (from the Ultraviolet to the Infrared) is gathered and transformed into electricity.

solar cell

After going into research just three years ago, they managed to beat the competition. This is a major step towards reducing further the costs of solar electricity – closing in on the dreamy goal of over 50% efficiency. Now, this is a lab work and it’s nowhere near feasible on a large scale, but it is still a laudable achievement.

“We are incredibly proud of our team which has been working now for three years on this four-junction solar cell,” says Frank Dimroth, Department Head and Project Leader in charge of this development work at Fraunhofer ISE. “This four-junction solar cell contains our collected expertise in this area over many years. Besides improved materials and optimization of the structure, a new procedure called wafer bonding plays a central role. With this technology, we are able to connect two semiconductor crystals, which otherwise cannot be grown on top of each other with high crystal quality. In this way we can produce the optimal semiconductor combination to create the highest efficiency solar cells.”

These cells are used in what is called concentrated photovoltaics, which use large mirrors to concentrate a large amount of sunlight onto a small area of solar photovoltaic (PV) cells to generate electricity.The terrestrial use of so-called III-V multi-junction solar cells, which originally came from space technology, has so far yielded the biggest efficiencies.

“This world record increasing our efficiency level by more than 1 point in less than 4 months demonstrates the extreme potential of our four-junction solar cell design which relies on Soitec bonding techniques and expertise,” says AndrĂ©-Jacques Auberton-HervĂ©, Soitec’s Chairman and CEO. “It confirms the acceleration of the roadmap towards higher efficiencies which represents a key contributor to competitiveness of our own CPV systems. We are very proud of this achievement, a demonstration of a very successful collaboration.”

“This new record value reinforces the credibility of the direct semiconductor bonding approaches that is developed in the frame of our collaboration with Soitec and Fraunhofer ISE. We are very proud of this new result, confirming the broad path that exists in solar technologies for advanced III-V semiconductor processing,” said Leti CEO Laurent Malier. Concentrator modules are produced by Soitec (started in 2005 under the name Concentrix Solar, a spin-off of Fraunhofer ISE). This particularly efficient technology is employed in solar power plants located in sun-rich regions with a high percentage of direct radiation. Presently Soitec has CPV installations in 18 different countries including Italy, France, South Africa and California.

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